March is National Nutrition Month®, so it’s a good time to reflect on how you’re eating — and how you could make some improvements. Rather than looking for answers in the latest fad diet, try improving your overall eating pattern with tips from the Dietary Guidelines.
In January 2016, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provides recommendations to help Americans adopt healthier eating patterns. The Dietary Guidelines recognizes that healthy eating patterns are adaptable and can be tailored based on personal, cultural, and traditional preferences.
Healthy eating patterns include a variety of nutritious foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, low-fat and fat-free dairy, lean meats and other protein foods and oils. They limit saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium. The Guidelines provide 3 examples of healthy eating patterns:
- Healthy U.S.- Style: Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, people following the Healthy U.S.-style eating pattern consume 2.5 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit, 6 ounces of grain, 3 cups of dairy, and 5.5 ounces of protein each day.
- Healthy Mediterranean: Compared with the Healthy U.S.-style eating pattern, the Healthy Mediterranean eating pattern includes more protein and fruits and less dairy. People following the Mediterranean pattern who consume 2,000 calories a day get 6.5 ounces of protein, 2.5 cups of fruit and 2 cups of dairy. The Mediterranean and U.S.-style patterns both suggest 2.5 cups of vegetables and 6 ounces of grain per day.
- Healthy Vegetarian: Compared to the Healthy U.S.-style eating pattern, the Healthy Vegetarian eating pattern includes more legumes (beans and peas), soy products, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. It contains no meats, poultry, or seafood, and only recommends 3.5 ounces a day of protein for a 2,000-calorie diet — which still meets the recommended daily amount.
Remember, small changes in your food and drink choices can make a big difference!